Category Archives: 1980s

The Untouchables

Cover of "The Untouchables (Special Colle...

Cover via Amazon

Directed by Brian De Palma
Produced by Art Linson
Executive: Raymond Hartwick
Written by David Mamet
Based on The Untouchables by Oscar Fraley and Eliot Ness
Starring Kevin Costner
Sean Connery
Andy García
Charles Martin Smith
Robert De Niro
Patricia Clarkson
Billy Drago
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Stephen H. Burum
Editing by Gerald B. Greenberg & Bill Pankow
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date June 3, 1987 (1987-06-03)
Running time 119 minutes
Country United States
Language English 

The Untouchables is a very good picture about one man’s ruthless pursuit of justice at any cost. It is a semi-fictionalised account of Eliot Ness’ efforts in trying to bring down Al Capone’s criminal empire in the early 1930s, yet it is full of historical inaccuracies which do detract a little from the enjoyment of the film.

The main inaccuracy would be the portrayal of the death of Frank Nitti, one of Capone’s top henchmen. The movie depicts Ness throwing Nitti off the top of the courthouse during Capone’s trial, when in reality Nitti committed suicide in 1943, over a dozen years after Capone’s trial. (The only reason I know this is because I have watched numerous documentaries on Nitti and Capone on the Criminal Investigation channel!) De Palmer and Mamet are really taking liberties with the truth here.

Another thing I found a little incomprehensible is the fact that Ness would fight his battles with Capone and his cronies so openly and that many members of the public ended up becoming innocent victims. The prime example of this is the scene at the crowded station when they are trying to arrest Capone’s book keeper and a gun fight breaks out. Surely Ness and any other law enforcement officer would have tried to avoid this.

Robert De Niro’s portrayal of Capone is almost as a cartoon villain, although I am not sure if the reason for this is due to De Niro going over the top or the way it has been written. Sean Connery gives a good performance as Ness’ mentor Malone though, a role which won him an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, while Costner is alright as Eliott Ness.

The Untouchables is one of those popcorn films in which the best thing to do is to switch your brain off before viewing it, and to look at it as being just a piece of entertainment rather than being a serious look at a historical event.


The Blues Brothers

Elwood and Jake Blues and the Bluesmobile

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by John Landis
Produced by Bernie Brillstein, George Folsey Jr, David Sosna & Robert K. Weiss
Written by Dan Aykroyd & John Landis
Starring John Belushi
Dan Aykroyd
Carrie Fisher
John Candy
Henry Gibson

Additional Cast

Cab Calloway as Curtis
Carrie Fisher as Mystery Woman
Aretha Franklin as Mrs. Murphy
Ray Charles as Pawn Shop Owner/Himself
James Brown as Reverend Cleophus James
John Candy as Burton Mercer
Kathleen Freeman as Sister Mary Stigmata, “The Penguin”
Henry Gibson as Head Nazi
Steve Lawrence as Maury Sline
Twiggy as Chic Lady
Frank Oz as Corrections Officer
Jeff Morris as Bob
Charles Napier as Tucker McElroy
Steven Williams as Trooper Mount
Armand Cerami as Trooper Daniel
Chaka Khan as Choir soloist
John Lee Hooker as musician on Maxwell Street
John Landis as State trooper
Stephen Bishop as police officer with broken watch
Paul Reubens as Chez Paul waiter
Steven Spielberg as Cook County Assessor’s Office Clerk

The Blues Brothers Band

John Belushi as “Joliet” Jake Blues, lead vocals
Dan Aykroyd as Elwood Blues, harmonica and lead vocals
Steve Cropper as Steve “the Colonel” Cropper, lead guitar, rhythm guitar and vocals
Donald “Duck” Dunn as Donald “Duck” Dunn, bass guitar
Murphy Dunne as Murphy “Murph” Dunne, keyboards
Willie Hall as Willie “Too Big” Hall, drums and percussion
Tom Malone as Tom “Bones” Malone, trombone, tenor saxophone and vocals
Lou Marini as “Blue Lou” Marini, alto saxophone and tenor saxophone and vocals
Matt Murphy as Matt “Guitar” Murphy, lead guitar
Alan Rubin as Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin, trumpet, percussion and vocals

Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Stephen M. Katz
Editing by George Folsey Jr
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date June 20, 1980
Running time 133 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Fox Classics had a Blues Brothers marathon on New Year’s Day, screening the movie several times throughout the day. Even though I have seen this movie millions of times I just had to watch it again.

While the film is quite hilarious at times I don’t think that it is the funniest film of all time like a lot of people under the age of 40 have said. It’s probably the funniest film of the 80s though. I like the way that Belushi and Ackroyd play everything very straight regardless of whatever madness is occurring around them. There are a lot of good, funny, lines that have all gone down into movie folklore.

We’re on a mission from God!

I think the thing that I like most about this picture is the great music featured. Firstly there is the Blues Brothers‘ Band featuring Dan Ackroyd and John Belushi as well as the members of Stax records house band Booker T and the MGs. Then there are the cameos by John Lee Hooker, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway and James Brown playing and singing some of their most famous hits from the past. The scene featuring Ray Charles singing Shake A Tailfeather is very funny.

Overall the film is very funny with lots of great music.


Back To School

Directed by Alan Metter
Produced by Chuck Russell
Written by Steven Kampmann, William Porter, Peter Torokvei & Harold Ramis
Starring Rodney Dangerfield
Sally Kellerman
Burt Young
Keith Gordon
Ned Beatty
William Zabka
Sam Kinison
Robert Downey, Jr.
Paxton Whitehead
Adrienne Barbeau
Terry Farrell
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Thomas E. Ackerman
Editing by David Rawlins
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release date June 13, 1986
Running time 96 min.
Country United States
Language English

Back To School is a typically 80s movie, featuring the schtick of Rodney Dangerfield and lots of generic 80s rock. This is not a bad thing. Rodney Dangerfield essentially plays Rodney Dangerfield, so if you know his comic persona you know what to expect, although he doesn’t do as much of the ‘no respect’ stuff here. One thing that I find amazing is that it took him so long to get any success. Although he was a stand-up comic in the 1940s and appeared on TV in the 60s, but it wasn’t really until the 80s and in particular Caddyshack and Back To School that he found widespread fame.

Back To School also features an early appearance by Robert Downey Jr. This would have been at around the same time that he was appearing in Saturday Night Live, but in Back To School he really doesn’t do much except act weird.

Overall there are a few laughs to be had and for better or for worse they don’t make ’em like this any more.

Back To School is available on Amazon for $11.49.

Rodney Dangerfield’s autobiography, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Me: A Lifetime of No Respect but Plenty of Sex and Drugs is also available on Amazon for $11.19.


History Of The World – Part 1

Directed by Mel Brooks
Produced by Mel Brooks
Written by Mel Brooks
Narrated by Orson Welles
Starring Mel Brooks
Dom DeLuise
Madeline Kahn
Harvey Korman
Cloris Leachman
Music by John Morris
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date June 12, 1981
Running time 92 min.
Country United States
Language English

“It’s good to be the king”

Mel Brooks’ History of the World Part 1 is quite funny but it isn’t anywhere as good as Young Frankenstein, Blazing Saddles or The Producers. It’s probably a  little more hit and miss than those other films but it is I feel, a lot better than High Anxiety.
For some reason I used to love this movies as a kid. I watched it a few times and thought it was hilarious. Watching it as an adult I find that it’s not as great as I thought when I was a kid, but there are still a few chuckles to be had.


Tim Burton’s Hansel & Gretel

Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melb...

Image via Wikipedia

Written by The Brothers Grimm
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Julie Hickson & Rick Heinrichs
Original channel The Disney Channel
Original run October 31, 1983

This short early film by Tim Burton is being shown at ACMI as a part of the Tim Burton exhibition at Federation Square. I had never seen it before. It is a Burton-esque version of the Grimm’s fairy tale and has a few amusing moments. It runs for about 20 minutes and combines live-action with stop motion animation, although it is mostly live-action. Like most things Burton, it is slightly weird.


Vincent

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Image via Wikipedia

Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Rick Heinrichs
Written by Tim Burton
Narrated by Vincent Price
Music by Ken Hilton
Cinematography Victor Abdalov
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by Touchstone Home Video
Buena Vista Distribution
Release date UK 1982
Running time 5 minutes 52 seconds
Country USA
Language English

I saw Vincent last week as a part of the Tim Burton exhibition that is currently on at ACMI in Federation Square, Melbourne. (I also have it on DVD as an extra on The Nightmare Before Christmas) It’s a great six-minute stop motion animated film that shows where Burton would be headed in his career. It features great narration from Vincent Price and the animation is very good.


Bill

Written by Barry Morrow & Corey Blechman
Directed by Anthony Page
Produced by Mel Stuart
Starring Mickey Rooney
Dennis Quaid
Largo Woodruff
Anna Maria Horsford
Harry Goz
Music by William Humeke, William Kraft
Cinematography Mike Fash
Approx. run time 100 minutes
Distributed by CBS Television
Country United States
Language English
Release date December 22, 1981
Bill is a movie that I watched several times when I was a kid. It is the story of Bill Sackter, a man who has an intellectual disability who lived in an institution for 46 years but is now living in the community trying to make it on his own. I think that it is kind of ironic that I watched this film so often as a kid as for the last fifteen years I have made a career working with people with intellectual disabilities.

Bill is played by Mickey Rooney, who won an Emmy Award for the role. Naturally he is not subtle with his playing of Bill but that is not so bad here. It’s hard for me to make an unbiased judgement of this movie though as I work with people with disabilities and can tell that reality is very different from the movies. I can see how the film tries to manipulate the feelings of the viewer but the story is quite compelling and Rooney’s overacting of the part helps us feel empathy for Bill. I know that there is a documentary about the real Bill Sackter that has recently been released but this is still an OK watch.


The Devil at Your Heels

Directed by Robert Fortier Produced by Bill Brind, Robert Fortier, Barrie Howells and Adam Symansky Narrated by Gordon Pinsent Starring Ken Carter Distributed by Visionsmiths, Inc. Release date 1981 Running time 1 hr 43 minutes Language English
I think like most Australians I first saw this film in the early 1990s when it was presented by the D-Generation on the ABC. I taped it and watched this film several times but I think that someone eventually recorded over it, so I hadn’t seen this for a bout fifteen years.I have been looking for this ever since and finally acquired another copy of it.
The film is about Ken Carter, a stuntman who dreams of flying a rocket powered car across the St. Lawrence Seaway from Canada to the United States. For five years he tries to make his dream into reality but unfortunately for Ken, while he may have the ambition he does not have the money, resources or talent to do this, but that does not stop him from trying, although when it actually comes time for him to make the jump he loses his nerve.
Ken is a likeable sort of guy and unlike Evel Knievel is someone you’d actually like to have a beer with. Sure, he does seem to have a very high opinion of himself despite the fact that he never achieves even a fraction of what he sets out to do, but unlike the impression I got of Knievel in the Richard Hammond documentary Ken seems like a nice, eccentric guy. The documentary could have treated Ken as a fool but it at least gives him some dignity despite the fact that he does come off as a buffoon with some of what he says. Ken makes the film funny because he doesn’t know his limitations and despite the fact that even a blind man could see that he would not make the jump, Ken just cannot see it himself. Ken and everyone around him are too inept to make this a reality.Ken wasn’t even the one who attempted the jump as he lost his nerve and the backers got Ken’s friend Kenny Powers to do it with disastrous results.
It is a funny film about an awesomely eccentric but very inept guy.

This Is Spinal Tap

Directed by Rob Reiner
Produced by Karen Murphy

Written by Christopher Guest
Michael McKean
Harry Shearer
Rob Reiner

Starring Rob Reiner
Michael McKean
Christopher Guest
Harry Shearer
Fran Drescher
Bruno Kirby

Music by Christopher Guest
Michael McKean
Harry Shearer
Rob Reiner

Cinematography Peter Smokler
Editing by Kent Beyda & Kim Secrist
Distributed by Embassy Pictures
Release date March 2, 1984
Running time 82 minutes
Country United States
Language English

Many people claim that This Is Spinal Tap is one of the funniest movies of all time and that it was the first ever mockumentary, yet in my mind it is one of the most overrated films ever made.

Even though Spinal Tap is at times a very funny movie it cannot live up to the hype that its’ fans give it. Perhaps it is a case of familiarity breeding contempt as over the years we have seen many of the best jokes over and over again and the more I hear them the less funny they are.

The thing that irks me about This Is Spinal Tap is how it is hailed as the first ‘mockumentary’ yet it was preceded by Neil Innes and Eric Idle’s The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash by five years. This would have been known to at least one of Spinal Tap’s creators, Harry Shearer, who was a cast mate on Saturday Night Live in 1979. The Rutles movie was partly financed by SNL’s producer Lorne Michaels and features cameos from SNL’s (then) cast members John Belushi, Dan Ackroyd, Gilda Radner, Al Franken and Bill Murray.

Still, This Is Spinal Tap does feature Squiggy as one of the band members, whilst Nanny Fran acts as the bands publicist. This is one of those movies which I guess everyone has to watch once, but if you watch it anymore than that it quickly wears out its welcome.


Flying High!

Directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker & Jerry Zucker
Produced by Jon Davison & Howard W. Koch
Written by Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker
Starring Robert Hays
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Julie Hagerty
Leslie Nielsen
Robert Stack
Lloyd Bridges
Peter Graves
Frank Ashmore
Lorna Patterson
Stephen Stucker
Music by Elmer Bernstein
Cinematography Joseph F. Biroc
Editing by Patrick Kennedy
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date(s) June 27, 1980
Running time 87 min.
Country United States
Language English

I am serious, and don’t call me Shirley.

Flying High!, which is known as Airplane! in the USA is one of the funniest films ever made. It was showing on Channel 10 last night and I just had to watch it. (Even though I own the DVD!!!)

Joey, you like movies about gladiators?

The movie features lots of gags that just keep coming at the viewer at a fast pace. If one joke doesn’t work it doesn’t matter as there is always another one hot on its heels. Thankfully most of the jokes do work if only because they are just so out there and weird. The film is a spoof of the disaster movie genre

There are a lot of actors in this film such as Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves and Robert Stack who weren’t really known for comedy. The same can be said for Leslie Nielsen who was a serious actor before Airplane! but became more known for his comedy career since, with films such as the Naked Gun movies. Basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar also appears in the film as the co-pilot.

Anyway the film is hilarious. Even though I know so many of the jokes off by heart I still found myself laughing out loud very often. In particular Lloyd Bridges had me in stitches every time he said, “This was a bad week to give up…”. Just so friggin’ funny.